Constantina Dejong

Written by Constantina Dejong

Modified & Updated: 01 Jun 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, is a figure who looms large in the history of the 20th century. Known for his role in leading the Chinese Communist Party to victory in the Chinese Civil War and establishing the revolutionary socialist state, Mao is often seen as a polarizing figure. However, amidst the well-known facts about his leadership and policies, there are also lesser-known aspects of Mao’s life and legacy that are worth exploring. In this article, we will delve into 20 intriguing facts about Mao: The Unknown Story, as recounted by acclaimed author and historian, Jung Chang. From his early years and personal relationships to his controversial policies and lasting impact, this article will shed light on the enigmatic man behind the legend, providing an in-depth look at the lesser-known aspects of Mao’s life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mao Zedong’s leadership led to widespread famine and the deaths of millions, shaping China’s history and sparking ongoing debate about his controversial legacy.
  • “Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday offers a critical perspective on Mao’s life, challenging traditional narratives and shedding light on the devastating impact of his policies.
Table of Contents

Mao Zedong was the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.

Mao Zedong, the central figure of the Chinese Communist Party, led the revolution that overthrew the Nationalist government and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Mao’s leadership resulted in the deaths of millions of people.

Under Mao’s rule, disastrous policies such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution led to widespread famine, political persecution, and the deaths of an estimated 45 million people.

Mao’s book, “The Little Red Book,” became a political and cultural phenomenon.

Mao’s quotations compiled in “The Little Red Book” became a symbol of loyalty to the Communist Party and a required possession for every Chinese citizen during the Cultural Revolution.

The Long March was a significant event during Mao’s rise to power.

The Long March, a military retreat undertaken by the Chinese Red Army, became a symbol of resilience and determination, solidifying Mao’s position as the leader of the Communist Party.

Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, played a prominent role during the Cultural Revolution.

Jiang Qing, also known as Madame Mao, was a member of the Gang of Four and wielded significant influence over cultural and political matters during Mao’s tenure.

Mao had a complicated relationship with the Soviet Union.

Initially, Mao sought support from the Soviet Union, but ideological and political differences eventually led to a split between the two nations.

Mao’s pursuit of collectivization through the Great Leap Forward led to widespread famine.

During the Great Leap Forward campaign, Mao launched a series of agricultural and industrial reforms that ultimately resulted in a catastrophic famine, causing the deaths of millions of Chinese citizens.

The Cultural Revolution was a tumultuous period of political and social upheaval in China.

Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution to eradicate his perceived enemies within the Communist Party and to reassert his authority. It unleashed chaos across the country and led to widespread violence and destruction.

Mao’s portrait still hangs in Tiananmen Square.

Mao’s image remains a ubiquitous symbol of the Communist Party’s legacy and is displayed prominently in one of China’s most iconic landmarks, Tiananmen Square.

Mao’s leadership style promoted a cult of personality.

Mao’s charisma and authoritarian leadership style cultivated a cult of personality, with his image and ideology permeating all aspects of Chinese society.

Mao’s policies and ideology continue to shape China’s political landscape.

Even after Mao’s death, his ideological footprint remains influential, guiding the policies and decisions made by the Communist Party of China.

Mao was an influential military strategist.

Mao’s guerrilla warfare tactics and strategic thinking proved instrumental in the success of the Communist Party’s military campaigns.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution aimed at purging capitalist and traditional elements in Chinese society.

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to eliminate bourgeois and feudal influences, encouraging the younger generation to actively participate in the revolutionary process.

Mao’s marriage to four different women shed light on his personal life.

Mao’s multiple marriages, including his union with Yang Kaihui and Jiang Qing, offered insights into his complicated personal life and the interplay between his public and private personas.

Mao’s policies aimed to empower peasants and the working class.

Mao championed the rights and interests of the common people, promoting land reform and the redistribution of wealth to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

Mao’s death in 1976 marked the end of an era.

Mao’s passing brought an end to his leadership and ushered in a period of political and economic reforms under his successors, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.

The book “Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday offers a critical perspective on Mao’s life and legacy.

“Mao: The Unknown Story” provides a meticulously researched account of Mao’s controversial life, challenging the traditional narratives surrounding his leadership and examining the devastating impact of his policies on Chinese society.

Mao’s image is still prevalent in popular culture.

From T-shirts to propaganda posters, Mao’s iconic image continues to be used in popular culture, reflecting the enduring fascination and controversy surrounding his legacy.

The Great Famine caused by Mao’s policies resulted in one of the deadliest famines in history.

As a result of misguided agricultural policies and collectivization efforts, the Great Famine plagued China from 1959 to 1961, leading to the deaths of an estimated 30 million people.

Mao’s legacy remains a subject of heated debate and controversy.

Decades after his death, Mao’s legacy continues to divide opinions, with some viewing him as a visionary leader and others condemning his authoritarian rule and the human cost of his policies.

In conclusion, Mao Zedong’s tenure as the leader of the People’s Republic of China was marked by political upheaval, economic turmoil, and widespread social transformation. His legacy continues to shape China’s political landscape and provoke debates about his leadership, policies, and their far-reaching consequences. Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday provides a thought-provoking exploration of Mao’s life and challenges the traditional narratives surrounding his rule. Understanding Mao’s complexities is crucial to fully grasp the history of modern China.


In conclusion, Jung Chang’s “Mao: The Unknown Story” presents a fascinating account of Mao Zedong’s life, shedding light on lesser-known aspects of his journey. Through meticulous research and compelling storytelling, Chang provides readers with a comprehensive look into Mao’s rise to power, his leadership style, and the devastating consequences of his policies. From his early years as a revolutionary to his controversial reign as Chairman of the Communist Party, Mao’s impact on China and the world cannot be understated.Chang’s book challenges popular narratives surrounding Mao, debunking myths and exposing the harsh reality of his rule. By combining historical analysis with personal anecdotes, Chang humanizes Mao, making the reader question their previous understanding of this enigmatic figure.”Mao: The Unknown Story” serves as a vital resource for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. By delving into the complexities and contradictions of Mao’s life, Chang offers a thought-provoking perspective that leaves readers with a sense of awe and reflection.


1. Is “Mao: The Unknown Story” a biography of Mao Zedong?

Yes, “Mao: The Unknown Story” is a comprehensive biography of Mao Zedong written by Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday. It provides a detailed account of Mao’s life, from his childhood to his final days.

2. What sets “Mao: The Unknown Story” apart from other books about Mao?

Unlike many other books about Mao, “Mao: The Unknown Story” challenges the conventional narrative and delves into lesser-known aspects of Mao’s life. It presents a critical perspective and debunks myths associated with Mao’s reign, shedding new light on his true character and the impact of his policies.

3. Is “Mao: The Unknown Story” an objective account of Mao’s life?

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have extensively researched Mao’s life, drawing from multiple sources, including interviews, archives, and testimonies. While some critics argue that the book may exhibit a particular bias, it remains a meticulously researched and compelling narrative that offers new insights into Mao’s life and legacy.

4. Can I gain a comprehensive understanding of Mao’s life by reading this book?

Yes, “Mao: The Unknown Story” provides a comprehensive understanding of Mao’s life, from his early years as a peasant to his rise as a revolutionary leader and eventual Chairman of the Communist Party in China. The book covers pivotal events, political strategies, and the consequences of Mao’s rule.

5. Who would benefit from reading “Mao: The Unknown Story”?

“Mao: The Unknown Story” is highly recommended for history enthusiasts, students, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Mao Zedong and the impact he had on China and the world. It offers a captivating and thought-provoking exploration of one of the most influential figures in the 20th century.

Mao's life, filled with triumphs and tragedies, shaped modern China. If you're curious to learn more about the ideologies that influenced him, check out our articles on communism, the cultural revolution, and a captivating biography that delves into the complexities of human struggles.

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